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July 11, 2006 |

By Seth Freilich | TV | July 11, 2006 |

This year, the new voting scheme for the Emmy nominations was much ballyhooed. The way it used to be done, academy members simply picked their favorites in the various categories, and the top five vote-getters were the official nominees. This new system, which would allegedly make the nominees more diverse, added a second phase to the voting: after the academy members submitted their picks, a list of the top vote-getters in each category was sent to a special panel (top 15 vote-getters for lead actor/actress awards, and top 10 for everything else). That panel then picked the top five. And, as my title suggests, this new method resulted in a whole lot of the same old same old.

Off the bat, let’s get one thing out of the way — “Deadwood” was not eligible for any nominations this year, so that’s about the one thing you can’t blame the voters for fucking up. Only shows that had episodes airing between June 2005 and May 2006 are eligible, and “Deadwood” had no such shows (the second season ended in May ‘05 and the third season started in June ‘06).

One other thing to discuss up front — lots of folks seem pissed that last year’s best comedy winner and best drama winner (ABC’s one-two punch of “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost”) got shafted this year. Well, they shouldn’t get nominated just because they won last year and, if you look at it objectively, neither warranted many nominations in their own right, this time around. So this is actually another thing I think the voters got right.

But now let’s take a long at all the shit they got wrong.

Best Drama. OK, I have no problem with “House” or “24,” although I would not have necessarily given them nods. But I have a serious problem with the other three. Look, I enjoyed the hell out of this last run of “The West Wing” as much as anyone, and it was a marked improvement over the last couple of seasons, but it certainly wasn’t up to the early Sorkin years, and I’m just fucking sick and tired of shows getting nominations because they’re leaving the air after a long run and because they were once deeply cherished, etc. It’s horseshit. And a nomination for the quasi-season of “The Sopranos” is also horseshit — there were some entertaining moments, sure, but they were few and far between. This is another show that isn’t what it once was, and I don’t know anyone that had the same excitement for this show as they once did. The last nomination, “Grey’s Anatomy,” is a bit trickier. Overall, I very much enjoyed the show, and it was something I definitely looked forward to watching each week. But the thing of it is, I’m still not convinced that it’s actually that good a show. Entertaining, yes. But a top-notch drama? Not so sure. Particularly when you look at what could’ve/should’ve been nominated instead.

First, “Battlestar Galactica.” Simply put, it’s the best damn non-“Deadwood” drama out there right now. Even friends of mine who hate science-fiction are enjoying this show, because it rises above its genre origins. But since it’s got spaceships and robots, the Emmys give it the finger. Why “Rescue Me” got the stiff one, I’m a little less clear on. It’s obviously on the voters’ radar, because they gave an actor nod to Dennis Leary. But apparently its deft mixture of dark comedy and drama doesn’t tickle the voters’ fancy when they can suck at the teat of past greats like “The West Wing” and “The Sopranos.” And the last slot should’ve gone to either my lovely “Veronica Mars” or “Six Feet Under” (which would’ve been a much better nostalgia nomination, since it was actually a really solid season). … And actually, I’m gonna stretch out a little here. In place of “24,” I would put up HBO’s “Rome.” Not watched by a ton of you, who got turned off by its slow start. But I’m telling you, by the end of its first run, they managed to hammer out a hell of a show that was utterly enthralling, and I was more excited about each upcoming episode than I was for “24.”

Anyway, of the five actual nominees, my guess is that “The West Wing” will get it, and I actually don’t have a show that I’ll be actively rooting for, because I just don’t care — the voters totally ruined the night’s biggest award for me. Thanks, guys.

Best Comedy. With one exception, this is a pretty good list. Let’s play the old “Sesame Street” game and see if you can guess which one of these is not like the other: “Arrested Development,” “Scrubs,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The Office,” and “Two and a Half Men.” If you guess the last one, congratulations, you’re absolutely correct. See, here’s the thing about this show — as my inner poet put it, “it’s not total swill, it’s just fucking run-of-the-mill.” There’s nothing special or truly enjoyable about it, and that seems like something that should be required of any “best comedy” competitor. So in its place, I would’ve put HBO’s “Entourage.” The second season of that show developed the hell out of the premise of the first season, and it was an absolute riot from beginning to end. Again, I know it’s on the voter radar because it got some other nods, so I just don’t get it.

And while we’re here, I would actually knock “Curb Your Enthusiasm” off this list. I have loved that show from the get-go, but I didn’t find last season to be quite the riot it used to be — much more hit-and-miss. In its stead, I would have liked freshman “Everybody Hates Chris” to get a nod. Many people think “My Name Is Earl” should’ve gotten a nod, but between the two, I actually think “Chris,” underrated and underappreciated, is the better show. “Earl” sort of lagged for me as the season went on, but “Chris,” despite relatively simple plots, kept me in hysterics all season long.

But as for the actual award, I have no idea how this will play out. My guess is that “The Office” is going to get it. And I’m totally OK with that. As much as I loved “Arrested Development,” I think I laughed more this season at “Scrubs” and “The Office,” so I’d be happy with either one of those two taking the golden dude (and as long as “Two and a Half Men” doesn’t get it, I’ll consider the award a win for the field of comedy).

Lead Actor (Drama). Other critics are pissing and moaning about this, but I’m fucking ecstatic that Christopher Meloni got a nod for “Law and Order: SVU.” While he’s always been good, he was utterly fantastic this season. And I’m also happy to see Denis Leary (“Rescue Me”) and Peter Krause (“Six Feet Under”) on the list. Keifer Sutherland (“24”), while he was perfectly entertaining this season, doesn’t really feel up to the same level for me. And Martin Sheen for “The West Wing” is one of the biggest fucking jokes of the whole list of nominations. He was barely on this season, and his performance wasn’t nearly as good as it had been in years past (where he showed periods of brilliance yet got the ole’ stiff one from the Emmys). In place of Sheen, I would have preferred James Gandolfini. While this season of “The Sopranos” may not have been up to snuff, I thought Gandolfini himself was excellent, particularly in the early episodes when he was playing the in-limbo version of himself. And instead of Sutherland, I have to cheat a little. I don’t watch “Boston Legal,” but everything I hear says that James Spader should be on this list, as in years past, so that’s where I’d put him.

None of it matters, however, as I would bet my not-even-a-twinkle-in-my-eye-yet firstborn child that Sheen’s getting the win, particularly since he ain’t won it yet. But I’ll foolishly be rooting for Meloni anyway because I really think he chiseled out the best performance, over the course of the year, out of any of these five.

Lead Actress (Drama). Well, I’m happy that none of the “Desperate Housewives” got nominated, because none of them deserved it. And as happy as I was with Meloni’s nomination, I’m just as pleased about Mariska Hargitay’s nomination for “SVU” because she had just as strong and superb of a year-long performance as he did. While I’m not sure that Frances Conroy’s performance on “Six Feet Under” was quite of the “best actress” caliber this year, I’m OK with this nod. And since I’ve never seen a second of TNT’s “The Closer,” I simply have no opinion on Kyra Segwick’s nomination. But Allison Janney (“The West Wing”) and Geena Davis (“Commander-in-Chief”) are fucking jokes. Janney was fine, but yet again, nothing special — this is more nostalgia, pure and simple. And Geena Davis was a fucking stiff on a bad show, but she’s a “movie star,” so she gets a nod.

In their place, I would’ve loved to see my not-even-remotely-secret crush, Kristen Bell (“Veronica Mars”) get a nod for her second year in a row of rock-solid performances, walking the difficult line between drama, comedy, and snark. And the other nomination I would’ve liked: In place of Davis’ stiff president, how about Mary McDonnell’s (“Battlestar Galactica”) tough-as-balls president? Seriously, I can’t say enough about what a shame it is that this show is being utterly ignored like this. I’m disgusted. And actually, on second thought, I’m scratching Frances Conroy off the list and giving her nomination to Edie Falco (“The Sopranos”). As I said, I’m not sure that Conroy’s performance was top-notch (though certainly above most of the herd), but I think Falco managed to nail it out of the park in a mostly lackluster series of episodes. So yeah, let’s do that.

But of the five actual nominees, I’m guessing that Janney is going to get yet another win, although I’ll be rooting just as foolishly for Hargitay as for Meloni (and the thing is, while I enjoy “SVU,” I don’t love it — I just think they were both that fucking good this season).

Lead Actor (Comedy). Couldn’t be happier about Steve Carell’s nomination for “The Office.” But that’s where my happiness ends (although I’m OK with Tony Shalhoub for “Monk” and will let him stay around). Larry David (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), while hilarious in seasons past, felt a little flat to me this year. And Kevin James (“The King of Queens”) and Charlie Sheen (“Two and a Half Men”)? Uhm … ok. Neither is bad, per se, but neither is anything worth writing home about. Instead of David and these two numbnuts, what about Jason Lee (“My Name Is Earl”), the other Jason (Bateman, “Arrested Development”) and Zach Braff (“Scrubs”)? All three of these guys gave hilarious and nuanced performances all season long that deserve a little fucking respect.

But looking at the actual list, I have to confess this: While I’ll be rooting for Carell on the basis of talent, I’m actually secretly hoping that Sheen gets the win, just so that he can get his little statuette only to turn right around and lose it in his divorce. That would be good times. But I suspect that the award is actually going to go to Carell (maybe I’m na├»ve as hell, but I really think the final voters are going surprise us with “The Office” love).

Lead Actress (Comedy). Uhm…wow. I just don’t even know what the hell to do with this category. I mean … seriously. I’m going to skip ahead to some other shit and come back to this one.

Supporting Actor (Comedy). OK, I’m glad that Jeremy Piven (“Entourage”) is here, and thrilled that Will Arnett (“Arrested Development”) is here. While I haven’t watched the show in years, I’ve always loved Bryan Cranston (“Malcolm in the Middle”) and have heard his performances are still great, so I’m OK with this, too. But Sean Hayes (“Will & Grace”) is yet another undeserved nod for a show leaving the air past its prime, and Jon Cryer (“Two and a Half Men”) makes me want to cry. Loved him in “Hiding Out” a decade-plus ago, but now, come on. Where’s my boy John C. McGinley (“Scrubs”) for Dr. Cox, the best character, second only to Al Swearengen, on TV? Where’s Piven’s co-star Kevin Dillon (“Entourage”)? Redunkilous. I’m guessing that Sean Hayes will steal this award, although I’ll be desperately rooting for Will Arnett, who wholeheartedly deserves it the most out of these five (not that I’d cry if The Piv won).

Supporting Actress (Comedy). Well, they got two-and-a-half right here. Jaime Pressly’s nomination (“My Name Is Earl”) seems well deserved, although I’m not so sure that she’s doing a great job playing a trailer park chick inasmuch as just acting natural. And Elizabeth Perkins (“Weeds”) was fantastic and unquestionably deserves a nod. The half-right part here is in reference to Alfre Woodard’s nomination, the single acting nod for any of the “Desperate Housewives.” I stopped watching about halfway through the season but, up to that point, while Woodard’s performance was good, it wasn’t really comedic. But since they insist on classifying “Desperate Houswives” as “comedy,” I guess this is where she has to go. Meanwhile, though there’s no question that “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is a comedy, albeit a slowly slipping one, I don’t think Cheryl Hines has any right being here. Yes, she’s great on the show, but she’s a straight-man, not really providing any comedic acting. So this just doesn’t make any sense to me. And then we’ve got another nostalgia nod for Megan Mullally (“Will & Grace”) and her godawful voice.

In place of Hines, we should’ve had Jessica Walter (Lucille Bluth on “Arrested Development”), who gave three years of hilarious performances, walking the fine line between quasi-straight-man, caricature of a drunk, and loathingly drunk. And in place of Mullally, the nod should’ve gone to Sarah Chalke (Elliot Reid, “Scrubs”), who’s been giving a hilarious performance of her neurotic doctor for years now. But alas, these nominations were not to be, and we’ll likely see the award go to friggin’ Megan Mullally (I’ll be rooting for Pressly or Perkins to win it, as they actually deserve it).

Supporting Actor (Drama). I’m fine with Gregory Itzin getting a nod for “24,” and ditto that for Michael Imperioli (“The Sopranos”). I’m sort of torn about the Shatner’s nomination for “Boston Legal,” and I’m going to ding him, not because he wasn’t good (I haven’t seen much of the show, but he’s seemed solid in what I’ve seen), but because I think there were better performances out there. Same thing goes for Alan Alda (“The West Wing”), and besides, and he’s already got 32 fucking nominations and five wins, for Christ’s sake. Oliver Platt (“Huff”), meanwhile, is playing the same character he almost always seems to play and definitely shouldn’t be here. The three who should take their places, wholly more deserving and totally below most folks’ radar, are John Scurti (Kenny “Lou” Shea on “Rescue Me”), Aaron Douglas (Galen Tyrol on “Battlestar Galactica”) and Ray Stevenson (Titus Pullo on “Rome”). But of those actually nominated, I would personally give the win to Imperioli, although I suspect that Alda is going to get his sixth.

Supporting Actress (Drama). Haven’t seen Candice Bergen on “Boston Legal,” or Blythe Danner on “Huff,” so I have no idea if they deserve their nominations. Chandra Wilson (“Grey’s Anatomy”) deserves her nomination, although cast-mate Sandra Oh does not. And I’m sorry, but as much as I like Jean Smart and enjoyed this season of “24,” I kind of found her over-the-top and not really Emmy-worthy. In place of her and Oh, I would’ve been much happier to see an acknowledgment of Polly Walker’s deliciously manipulative performance (as Atia of the Julii in “Rome”)and of Tricia Helfer’s simply delicious performance (as Number Six on “Battlestar Galactica”). But I’m not a sacred voter, so what the hell do I know? And I can’t actually call who’s going to win it here, or who I even think should win it, since I’m unfamiliar with Bergen’s and Danner’s performances, and I suspect that one of them is going to take it home.

Lead Actress, Comedy. … Sigh. OK, let’s get this filth over with. The “are you kidding me” award here is a two-way split between Lisa Kudrow (the godawful “The Comeback”) and Stockard Channing (“Out of Practice”). The enough-is-enough-already award is also a two-way split between Jane Kaczmarek (“Malcom in the Middle”) and Debra Messing (“Will & Grace”). Thankfully, the first two shows are already cancelled and the last two shows are officially retired. And finally, while “The New Adventures of Old Christine” bored me in the few episodes I saw, Julia Louis-Dreyfus seemed to be pretty good, so I guess I can live with this.

But that still leaves four slots open and, to be perfectly honest, I can’t think of four actresses to fill them with. Mary Louise Parker (“Weeds”) is a no-fucking-brainer for fantastically mixing pathos with the dark comedy of her character. And Jenna Fischer (“The Office”) should also be a no-brainer, delivering an excellent comedic performance all season, while juggling it with the heartbreaking Jim/Pam storyline. But that’s all I’ve got. Maybe there’s more out there that’s just not coming to me right now, and I have no doubt commenters will bring any such performances to my attention. But anyway, with the mess that the actual nominations are, I just don’t care. I’ll basically be rooting for anyone but Messing to win, just because she’s probably the favorite.

All the rest. There are plenty of other categories, but it’s getting late and this is getting long, so I’m just going to whirlwind my way through it all with some quick comments on some of the good and bad here. Good — that “Extras” scored several guest actor nods (and if Patrick Stewart and Kate Winslet don’t win … well, they probably won’t, so it won’t be a surprise … but it’ll be wrong). Bad — on the drama guest star side, James Woods was ridiculous in his “ER” stint (I’m OK with the rest of the nominees, though, and if I were picking, I’d give the awards to Henry Ian Cusik for “Lost’s” Desmond and to Patricia Clarkson for Sarah O’Connor on “Six Feet Under”). Good — all five choices for comedic writing are actually solid, one of the few categories that totally got it right. Bad — on the dramatic writing side, the nomination of the “Grey’s Anatomy” two-part finale is preposterous (and if anything other than the series finale of “Six Feet Under” wins this award, I may punt my television out the window).

Good — God bless the Voters for nominating the Scientology episode of “South Park” (“Trapped in the Closet”); that’s just fucking great. Bad — I can’t believe that no episode of “The Office” got nominated for comedic directing, considering how amazing that show’s direction has been all season long. Good — the made-for-TV movie nomination for the surprisingly great The Girl in the Cafe and the nod for actor in a movie/miniseries to Andre Braugher for his strong performance in “Thief.” Bad — how the fuck didn’t the awesome theme for “Battlestar Galactica” get nominated, I ask you? Why must they hate on this show?

Good — the nominees for outstanding variety/music/comedy series are identical to the nominees for writing in a variety/music/comedy series, and they’re all so good that I could live with any one of them winning (“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” “The Colbert Report,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “Real Time with Bill Maher”). Also good — with these five solid nominees for writing in a variety/music/comedy series, we can already predict that the announcement of these nominees will be, as is often the case, the highlight of the whole night (this is the one where the various writing staffs submit their own videos about the staff).

Bad — while Colbert got a nod for individual performance in variety/musical program, Jon Stewart got shafted, so there could be room for Barry F’ing Manilow. Good — “Penn & Teller: Bullshit” getting nominated for outstanding reality program. Bad — “Rock Star: INXS” not getting a reality-competition nod (I’m telling you, it was a damn fine show). And finally, good — the Donald’s precious “The Apprentice” not getting nominated for reality-competition program. Gonna still claim that it’s the best reality show ever on the history of television, Donny baby?

Anyways, that’s all I got. See you on the night of August 27, when we can bemoan how the actual award voting was just as fucked-up as the nominations.


Seth Freilich is Pajiba’s television columnist. He lives in Washington, D.C., and couldn’t be happier that summer “intern season” is finally here.

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Seth is a Senior Editor and sometime critic. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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